A voice from the rose-garden shouted back, “Hullo!”
“You’re wanted. Come here!”
Geoffrey appeared, sauntering doggedly, with his pipe in his mouth, and his hands in his pockets.
“Who wants me?”
“A groom—from your brother.”
That answer appeared to electrify the lounging and lazy athlete. Geoffrey hurried, with eager steps, to the summer-house. He addressed the groom before the man had time to speak With horror and dismay in his face, he exclaimed:
“By Jupiter! Ratcatcher has relapsed!”
Sir Patrick and Arnold looked at each other in blank amazement.
“The best horse in my brother’s stables!” cried Geoffrey, explaining, and appealing to them, in a breath. “I left written directions with the coachman, I measured out his physic for three days; I bled him,” said Geoffrey, in a voice broken by emotion—“I bled him myself, last night.”
“I beg your pardon, Sir—” began the groom.
“What’s the use of begging my pardon? You’re a pack of infernal fools! Where’s your horse? I’ll ride back, and break every bone in the coachman’s skin! Where’s your horse?”
“If you please, Sir, it isn’t Ratcatcher. Ratcatcher’s all right.”
“Ratcatcher’s all right? Then what the devil is it?”
“It’s a message, Sir.”
“About my lord.”
“Oh! About my father?” He took out his handkerchief, and passed it over his forehead, with a deep gasp of relief. “I thought it was Ratcatcher,” he said, looking at Arnold, with a smile. He put his pipe into his mouth, and rekindled the dying ashes of the tobacco. “Well?” he went on, when the pipe was in working order, and his voice was composed again: “What’s up with my father?”
“A telegram from London, Sir. Bad news of my lord.”
The man produced his master’s card.
Geoffrey read on it (written in his brother’s handwriting) these words:
“I have only a moment to scribble a line on my card. Our father is dangerously ill—his lawyer has been sent for. Come with me to London by the first train. Meet at the junction.”
Without a word to any one of the three persons present, all silently looking at him, Geoffrey consulted his watch. Anne had told him to wait half an hour, and to assume that she had gone if he failed to hear from her in that time. The interval had passed—and no communication of any sort had reached him. The flight from the house had been safely accomplished. Anne Silvester was, at that moment, on her way to the mountain inn.
CHAPTER THE SEVENTH.
ARNOLD was the first who broke the silence. “Is your father seriously ill?” he asked.
Geoffrey answered by handing him the card.
Sir Patrick, who had stood apart (while the question of Ratcatcher’s relapse was under discussion) sardonically studying the manners and customs of modern English youth, now came forward, and took his part in the proceedings. Lady Lundie herself must have acknowledged that he spoke and acted as became the head of the family, on t his occasion.